ISB » News Archives » GREAT PEOPLE IN SERVICE - Gemma Sisia
Founder of School of St. Jude in Tanzania, Africa
Gemma Sisia with students of School of St. Jude
In 2002 a young lady, Gemma Rice (now Gemma Sisia), from a sheep farm in Australia, opened a small school in Northern Tanzania with the help of her family, friends and local Rotary Club. What started with only three students and one teacher is now a thriving school of approximately 1,500 students and around 350 local Tanzanian staff. The students and staff are located across three campuses and include two boarding houses to accommodate more than 1,000 students. These schools really have the potential to influence the quality of Tanzania's future leaders.
Gemma is the only daughter of Sue and Basil Rice. They raised their eight children on a fine wool sheep station just out of Armidale on the New England Tablelands, about a six-hour drive north of Sydney, NSW, Australia. After completing secondary school as a boarder at St Vincent's College, Potts Point in Sydney, Gemma went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Melbourne, a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours from Northern Territory University and a Graduate Diploma in Education from The University of New England.
At 22 years of age, with the passion and zeal inherited from her ancestor, Edmund Rice (founder of the Christian Brothers movement), Gemma set off to Africa to teach mathematics, science and sewing to girls in Kalungu, a rural village near Masaka township in the middle of Uganda, East Africa. The years spent in Africa were tough but rewarding years for Gemma as she witnessed and personally experienced a gamut of life's character building lessons. These lessons were gleaned from incredible hardship and painful loss (not least of which, watching her close friend, Gertrude, dying of AIDS), and rich rewards reaped from seeing many triumphs over adversity and forming strong and lasting friendships, including her best friend, soul mate and now husband, Richard Sisia.
Gemma and her family in 2011.
As well as developing and running a successful and fast-growing school and working ceaselessly for a safari company, Gemma and Richard have started a family! Wide-eyed, chubby cheeked, curly-haired Nathaniel and Jacob – more successful and fast-growing projects! They provide so much joy and amusement, and not only for their adoring parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – the many members of the school's changing community share in the thrills and spills and provide endless cuddles and playmate opportunities. The newest addition to the St Jude’s family is Isabella who was born in April 2008.She is as cute as a button and proves to be the main attraction in the office as she gets passed from one adoring admirer to another on her daily visits.